Friday, February 27, 2015

5 Lessons on Running and Motherhood

So I've been loving it when we have a few warm days interspersed with all of the cold ones. Even though it has been windy, it allows me the opportunity to bundle up Evie in her stroller and get a good walk in while Graham goes for a run. He runs around 4 miles while Evie and I walk about 2. I'm slowly starting to be more active and I'm working on getting back into shape (even if it is at a snail's pace). We also go down to my in-law's house once a week (typically on a Wednesday because Graham doesn't have class that day) and go for a run together while Cinda gets some "Nana time" with the little one. We run about two and a half miles, and boy am I a work in progress.

But this last time while we were running (uphill, since nearly the entire way back on our run is uphill) I was thinking about how running and motherhood are similar. Cause, you know, after 2 months of being a mom, I'm finally getting the hang of things I'm a pro. Hah. But seriously. Here are 5 lessons I've learned from my time running (and in sports in general, since most of you know I was a soccer player and not a cross country runner like Graham). Doing this has helped me to have a better outlook. Because I know from experience that things get better from working out, but I have yet to gain that knowledge (entirely) from motherhood. Have I mentioned that I'm a work in progress? Without further ado, here you have it.

1. You have good days (and bad days).

    Anyone who has done any sort of physical activity for any extended period of time can tell you that this is certainly true. I think it's why some people actually stop exercising! It's hard to want to continue when you have a bad day and you don't realize that it's normal. It can be quite the downer though. I'll have several days in a row when things are going great with running/lifting/whatever physical activity it happens to be and then there will be one day that is DEAD AWFUL. I'm talking like going from an average pace of 8:30 miles to 10:30 miles. That's a pretty big difference when you're talking about a short distance.
    Just like it's hard to want to keep going after a bad day running, it's kinda hard to keep my chin up after a "bad day" of being a mom. Bad days for me right now happen about every 2 to 3 days it seems. But the good days in between them are amazing. Those days when Evie is just happy and smiley and SLEEPS. Those are the best :) But I'm figuring out that this Motherhood thing is like running--if I let the bad day get the best of me, I'm only hurting myself. The next day will be better.

"Some bunny loves me" onesie with a bunny hat on :)

2. When it's windy, sometimes it's best to turn around.

     So when you're running, the wind can be a terrible thing. When it's to your back it is great and helps you move along. But when you are running into the wind it makes everything more difficult. It puts pressure on your lungs, making it harder to breathe. It literally pushes you back! Sometimes it is easiest to just turn around instead of trying to push through the wind.
    Now, when I'm running I don't always do this because I am working on making it to a certain physical destination. With Motherhood, however, I think this advice is key! If something isn't working, I don't always have to keep trying that same thing and expect it to work. Sometimes that means giving up on getting her to sleep for the time being, un-swaddling her, and playing with her some more. Other times it means handing her over to Graham so that I can literally turn around and vacate the premises. ;)

Making faces with Daddy 

3. It levels out after the hill (and there's always more than one).

     I love hills. That is: I love to hate them. You can ask Graham, I probably complain more leading up to hills than I do just about any other time. Ever. I don't like them. I especially don't like running hills with Graham because he likes to help me by giving me advice and telling me that I can do it. Okay, so that doesn't sound so bad, but I am super stubborn! I don't like being "told what to do" even when it is good advice. I am getting better about not glaring at him. Slowly, but surely. However, I am learning slowly (because, again, I'm stubborn) that I can make it through the hill. I can make it to the top. I just have to keep picking up my feet and focus on my breathing. When I do that--I can make it. And the top does not feel great. It feels AWFUL. Like I just want to roll over and lay out on the grass and slowly die. After working so hard, your body just hates you. It's screaming at you to stop. Your lungs are burning and your calves are on fire. But if you stop then, at the top of the hill, you aren't getting better. It's the pushing through that pain that really makes the most difference. You just have to take it slow, recover a bit, and then you are good to go (until the next one comes... cue the complaints).
     So in learning from this, I just have to keep on keepin' on sometimes. During those days when she is having a hard time, it's especially important for me to keep pushing myself. The "hill" one day (oh, who am I kidding--most days now this is the case) might be her not wanting to go down for a nap. After pushing hard and trying and trying to get her down in her crib, sometimes I will just hold her to let her sleep. To me, that is like the recovery time at the top of the hill, because it isn't what I would prefer to be doing, but it's not by any means the hardest part of my day. Now don't get me wrong--I love getting in snuggles with my baby girl, but I also need time to do things like shower, homework, wash dishes, fold laundry, or something else that is equally as exciting. I'm learning to push through those "hills" one day at a time.

Hanging out at church while waiting on Dad

4. Improvement comes slowly, but it does come.

     This can be a hard lesson to learn when you are first starting out exercising. If you aren't sure what to expect, you might think that you will lose all this weight in one week or suddenly be so much stronger. Now, while it is possible to have a really great first week in terms of weight-loss, typically after that first week it levels out and you have to work much harder to see the same results. This can be disheartening if you don't know to expect it! But as you keep working hard and push yourself with each workout (and making sure to take a rest day and do some cross-training as well) you will begin to see more improvements. Yes, that might be a little weight loss. But more common (and really a better goal to strive for for most) is that you start to feel happier. You feel better in your own skin. You have more energy. Aren't those great things to always be striving for, no matter how much we weigh? Sometimes, as you are striving to be healthier by exercising, you might also lose weight, and then gain some back! That is normal as well, and actually a good thing (if you are eating well) because it means that you are building muscle. MUSCLE WEIGHS MORE THAN FAT, folks. It can still be discouraging, but it is always important to focus on eating healthy and how you are feeling, more than only being concerned with a number on a scale. As you continue and do your best, you do see improvements. Sometimes you just have to look for them because they aren't what you expect.
     Now, onto the Mothering part. Let me just start by telling you this. In the time that I have been working on this post (like, at least a week but probably closer to two) I have been able to see vast improvements! Not only in myself, but in Evie as well. I am moving at a snail's pace sometimes, but I am slowly making progress. It feels good. I'm getting better at being more patient with her while I'm trying to get her to fall asleep (when I know she is crazy tired and can't barely keep her eyes open but she's fighting it so hard!). I'm getting better at multi-tasking while I have her (but if she is even starting to get sleepy, multi-tasking is a no go. She will get angry fast unless she has my full attention at that point). I think my right arm is going to end up being stronger than my left (I'm left handed for those of you who don't know) because I will carry her around the apartment with me in my right arm so I can do things with my left. Who has ever folded laundry with one hand? Not the easiest, let me tell you. So I normally save that for the middle of the night when she has just been put in her crib while I'm testing to see if she is really asleep or just faking it. Thanks to my big sis Michelle for giving me that tip about folding the laundry then!
    Just within this past week, Evie has been doing sooooo much better with her sleeping. It used to be a struggle with naps AND in the middle of the night (see my earlier posts if you want the details on that, hah), but now she has gotten much better for the night. I'm talking once I get her down (which sometimes takes nearly two hours...) she will sleep for a good 5-6 hours. Last night she actually slept for 8 before waking up to eat again! And when she wakes up (which is typically just the once now. Woohoo!) I am generally able to go back to bed after about an hour total of being up. Last night was just 45 min and let me tell you, that felt good!

Sunday at Nana and Papa's house with my sweet Princess

5. All your hard work is worth it.

     So you've been exercising or running for a little bit longer now. How do you know it's worth it? Why do you continue to put yourself through the pain? Why wake up at 6:30 so you have time to exercise and shower before you start your day? Because you see the results. Not only are you seeing the small changes, but you begin to notice other things as well. You don't feel quite as dead when you make it to the top of the hill. You have energy (a little bit anyway) when you finish your workout. You know that it's time to add another mile onto your runs. Time to move up a hand weight size. Time to add another set of push-ups/squats/lunges. That gives you confidence. Because not only are you feeling better and have more energy now, but you are also able to kick it up a notch and that feels good! That's how you know that all the crazy has been worth it.
    It's the same thing with this baby girl. Even though after one great day when I get really excited about things finally being on the up, we'll have a couple of rough ones in a row that make me question my sanity. But if I stop and think about what life was like just TWO WEEKS AGO, I'm immensely grateful. I've got a baby who only wakes up once in the middle of the night almost all of the time now. I've got a baby that knows when to flash me that sweet, sweet smile. (Hint: it's when I'm at my wit's end trying to get her down for a nap and she has been screaming incessantly) It melts my heart and I know that I am the luckiest because I get to be her Mom! That's how you know all the crazy has been worth it.

Who couldn't love someone so sweet as this?

     So there you have it. There are days that it seems like all I want to do is pull my hair out or cry, but those have lessened to maybe once a week now. Just kidding, I haven't had that bad of a day in a while. But there are definitely days that have an hour or two in it that are like that. But I'm getting better. I think honestly that it is mostly the result of more sleep than anything else. And I am not about to complain about getting more sleep at night!

    As always, your prayers and Netflix suggestions are always welcome and appreciated.

From Marissa, with love.